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Anyone who knows me will tell you I felt seriously uncomfortable at some of the things people were saying when our Verizon Team Penske No. 12 car scored three wins back in April. Some people who should know better were saying we'd have the title wrapped up by August! I was thinking, “Jeez, are you new to this sport?”
I have true faith in Verizon Team Penske and all the people who work on my No. 12 car, but it's not in our nature to go coasting into a race weekend underestimating the job ahead. We know how tight the battles are in the IZOD IndyCar Series, we know how strong our rivals can be and going into any event expecting to be on top is just asking for trouble. If you think that way, you deserve to get your butt kicked. Everyone who follows IndyCar knows you can have the fastest car and the quickest pit crew, but something unpredictable can work against you and so you end up failing to execute. Look at our stats: since that third win, our race results have been DNF-4th-8th-12th-DNF, and that's despite our qualifying 5th-2nd-5th-4th-6th! That sort of shows how tough it is even when you're consistently quick, as the the Verizon car has been.
My last blog covered the races through to Texas. Since then we've had Milwaukee, where we qualified fourth, had to start 14th because of an engine-change penalty, and then made good progress through to the top five. In my opinion, it was harder to pass than ever at the Milwaukee Mile this year. The only time you could gain more than one position was on a restart, and even then, it was only if you were lucky enough to start on the inside line. After that, once the field strung out, if you made it past one car, it would take you so long to complete the pass – and lose you so much speed doing it – that the next person you'd want to pass was long gone! So track position became very important, and a couple of tough pit stops and a couple of restarts where I played it carefully meant we got swamped.
Iowa should have been much better. Certainly the racing was awesome; two lanes opened up and people were able to pass. I think we had a decent car, and we could have got a top four that night, but that hope ended when we came together with EJ Viso. It's hard to check your mirrors on turn-in, so as we'd been going down the straight, I looked and he was behind me. Then I'm not sure if he went slightly to my outside and then swooped low – the TV footage afterward didn't show the lead-up to the accident. But apparently my spotter did say, “Inside, inside, inside” as I turned in, and I just didn't hear him, so what happened there, I don't know. Whatever, the result was my left rear made contact with Viso's right front and that tipped us both into a spin.
I tell you, looking at our points tally from the last five races, I'm pretty grateful that we're still leading the championship, even if it's only by three points. What's helped us is that those race wins have been divided up between the Ganassi guys, Andretti Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing. I think in terms of pace, we've been more consistent than them but we haven't been able to take advantage.
Well, I'm sick of this, to be honest – I miss Victory Lane. Mentally, I'm not in conservative mode and I'm not thinking about protecting my points lead. If you've seen the momentum swinging away from you, there's only one attitude to have: it's time to switch from hunted to hunter, and that's how I feel heading to the Canadian races.